Merepark buys Lewis’s to extend Central Village

Rachael Tinniswood

Lewis's department store in Liverpool has been acquired by developer Merepark to include in its Central Village scheme.

Merepark has formed a joint venture partnership with the building's previous owner Capital & Counties, a subsidiary of Liberty International, to buy the nine-storey, 420,000 sq ft building for an undisclosed sum.

A planning application is due to be submitted by the end of the year to refurbish the vacant upper floors and open up pedestrian links through the building from Renshaw Street to the new Central Village site, at the rear of Lewis's and behind Liverpool Central Station.

The department store, which went into administration in February this year before being rescued by Vergo Retail as a going concern, will continue trading as normal throughout redevelopment.

The Watson Building, alongside Lewis's on Renshaw Street, has also been acquired in a joint venture by Merepark and Irish developer Ballymore, its partner on Central Village.

The pair bought the Rapid paint store on the corner of Renshaw Street and Newington earlier this year, again to allow for improved pedestrian flows between their scheme and other parts of the city centre.

Merepark director, Richard Peel, said: "These are two highly strategic acquisitions which will enable us to deliver a full regeneration programme for Central Village and integrate two very prominent sites into the fabric of the city.

"Our discussions with Vergo Retail, which currently trades from the Lewis's department store, have been based on continuity of its trade throughout the construction process and this has the upmost importance. We hope that this news, combined with the start of work on phase one of Central Village later this year, will bring further confidence about the future prospects of this city."

Central Village will feature 400 apartments, extensive retail and leisure and a hotel in buildings ranging from five to 25 storeys. Work is due to begin on site in December.

Rapid recently confirmed plans to move from Renshaw Street to the outgoing John Lewis store in Church Street in two years' time. Merepark is also rumoured to be acquiring the Rapid site.

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